How do you make money on eBay?
Buy low, sell high, repeat.
The formula is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
To help me learn more about selling items for a profit on eBay, I turned to serial side hustler Daniella Flores. With the help of several part-time businesses, she and her wife have been able to pay off $31,000 in debt in the last two years.
Software engineer by day, she eBays and blogs at iliketodabble.com evenings and weekends.
Take it away, Daniella!
My wife M is guitar obsessed. So much that we have an entire room in our house full of them.
We aren’t hoarders, I swear.
Close though: We’re flippers.
Even though we mainly flip guitars, we also flip anything from collectibles to designer hand bags to even sneakers and sports memorabilia. If you’re looking for a product category to specialize in, here are some of the best items to flip.
The best platform to use for this is eBay and I’ll tell you why:
You can find literally anything you can imagine on eBay and I bet 9 times out of 10 that you can resell that same item on eBay for more that you bought it for.
I won’t tell you that it’s “easy” but you do have to get creative.
Don’t worry, there is no guessing required. I will tell you exactly how to make money on eBay, from a flipper’s perspective (with a little intro on flipping and how it works).
If you play your cards right, selling on eBay can actually become a pretty passive form of income, meaning there is minimal work required on your end.
Setting Up Your eBay Profile, Store and Understanding Fees
After you set up your eBay profile, you are basically free to start listing items from there.
However, if you want to set up an eBay store for a small monthly fee (staring at $4.95 per month), you can get perks like free listings, branding options, and dedicated customer service.
If you don’t open a store and list through your profile only, the following eBay fees apply:
- Insertion fee when you create a listing
- Final value fee when your item sells
Every month you are allowed up to 50 zero insertion fee listings. After that, the amount of the insertion fee per listing varies depending on it’s category.
For final value fees, they can range from as low as 2% to up to 12%, with maximum fees listed for each category.
As you can see from this table, there is a reason why we chose guitars to be the main category of what we flip. With guitars, the insertion fees are always free and the final value fee is relatively low at 3.5%.
Purchasing Items to List and Flip on eBay
When looking for items to sell, research is necessary. You don’t want to blindly purchase something to flip without any knowledge on it, just like with any other investment.
Start with what you know!
In addition to some knowledge and research on what you want to flip, there are 4 other things to think about before purchasing:
- Item quality
- Market price
- Profit margin (including fees)
- Packaging and shipping
1. Item Quality
Before purchasing anything to flip we always start with the eBay search.
For guitars, there are several different things we will search for including:
- Guitar brand name
- New, Used, needs repairs, etc
- Where it was made
As we sift through the listings, we’re picking ones that stand out as having potential to resell and profit from. As we search, the market price of that guitar sticks out to us in the listings as the highest price among the guitars in “New” condition.
(And that price may go up in the coming weeks as guitar prices fluctuate regularly.)
But in order to flip anything for a profit, we need to acquire inventory for far below the market price.
Despite all this data, people often under-price guitars (and other products) on eBay. When we come across a listing that looks like it might have some flipping profit margin in it, we’ll analyze the listing detail, pictures, and start communicating with the seller.
We’ll ask questions like whether or not a case is included. We’ll ask them to fill in any missing details from the description.
We may request additional photos to help verify the condition of the guitar. This is especially important if any area of the product is hidden in the existing images! It helps keep us safe and ensures we’re getting what we think we’re getting.
We then look on other platforms (as well as local guitar shops) for that same guitar to see if it is listed for a lower price, going through similar (if not the same) motions to inspect the condition.
Other platforms we look at include:
(These will obviously vary based on your niche.)
2. Market Price
On eBay, you can use the “Sold Items” search filter to see what that same guitar recently sold for.
However, guitar prices fluctuate. With certain brands, what they sold for last week is much different than what they sell for this week.
You can also leave the “Sold Items” box unchecked to get a sense for supply and demand. With only the Completed Listings shown, you’ll see how many went unsold. If there were 30 listings and only 1 sold, we might not want to touch that. Or at least would need to do more research as to why.
Search filtering can be handy in a number of ways. You can also filter on Authorized Sellers and Authenticity Verified.
But we don’t stop there. We continue to search current listings on eBay and the other platforms for the average price of what that same guitar is going for. Most likely, it will be pretty close to the same amount throughout all platforms, including Guitar Center.
That is what we aim to list it for.
If an Ibanez AF155 in “New” condition is listed currently for $760 and we bought that same guitar for $300 in “New” condition (and verified it as so when it arrived), we would then list it for $750 (with maybe some added freebies like guitar picks).
We sometimes play with the price as we monitor the market price as they go up and down on eBay.
3. Profit Margin
You must take into account the profit margin when looking for items to flip. A profit margin is how much revenue sales exceeds costs. Don’t forget to add the expected fees into your costs.
We don’t want to buy a guitar for more than we can sell it. That would make all of this pretty pointless!
We typically look for items that are selling for 50% of their market value or less. Since guitars are often several hundred dollars, that gives us plenty of margin to play with, and makes our effort worthwhile.
4. Packaging and Shipping
With guitars, we assume at least $50 for shipping costs. That doesn’t include the packaging costs (and guitars can be a pain to package, depending on the size of the guitar and if we include a case).
With anything you want to purchase for a flip, always take into account how difficult and expensive it might be to package and ship the item. This will add onto your costs and might destroy your profit margin (if you aren’t careful).
Where Else Can You Find Inventory to Flip?
Nick here. I’m fascinated by this eBay-to-eBay flipping scenario, but like Daniella mentioned, it’s not the only place to look for deals.
One interesting new way to source inventory is the free Flyp app. Flyp connects resellers like you with people who have products (name-brand clothing, shoes, and accessories) they want to get rid of.
Inside the app, you can bid on “lots” (bundles of products) from members by sharing what you think the items should sell for and the commission percentage you’ll charge for selling them.
Typical commission rates on Flyp are 30-50%, but keep in mind you’ll need to pay eBay or other marketplace fees out of those earnings.
Still, I think it’s worth a look if you’re focused on the clothing niche.
Darrel, a 6-figure eBay seller, sourced inventory for his electronics-focused eBay business on Craigslist and buy building a personal network of suppliers.
Rob “The Flea Market Flipper” Stephenson finds deals through local flea markets, swap meets, and apps like OfferUp. His goal is to 10x is purchase price on every flip. Check out their free online training here.
And lastly, Jessica takes a different approach. She actually sources most of her inventory off the shelves at local retail stores, but instead of flipping them on eBay, she resells those items for a profit on Amazon.
And finally, there’s an entire industry set up around flipping books. One guest of mine reported earning up to $4000 a month re-selling used books.
Listing Items on eBay So They Sell Fast
Alright, so we decided what guitar we want to purchase to flip. We know the seller had it priced for less than half of what it’s actually worth on eBay, but we didn’t tell them that.
After verifying all the details with the previous seller, we went ahead with the purchase. After we received it, we verified all details are as previously confirmed and we are ready to list!
Creating Attractive Listings That Rank
In this example, we actually got the hard case with the guitar when we received it. That was an added bonus that went into the decision for why we purchased it. We plan to sell the guitar with the case included in the listing.
As we create our listing, the following aspects are important:
- Include keywords in both your title and description.
- A description with as much detail as possible. This would include the guitar brand, model, style, color, where it was made, rarity, condition, any additional details to note if it had scratches, etc. Anything you can think of about the guitar, include it in the description. But don’t tell some long story about it because people don’t really care about that!
- High quality photos taken in good lighting. These should include every possible angle and section of the guitar. Make sure to photograph any flaws on the guitar as well.
- Add on the shipping costs and how long it will take to ship the item. Some eBay sellers often include the shipping fees within the price of the item and while that works for cheaper items that would appear to offer free shipping, it doesn’t work for all. But it is still an option you can try out and see how it works for you.
- Add the minimum offer you are willing to take. When people make an offer, you can negotiate but are never required to take their offer.
- The type of sale. We almost always list items for sale with a fixed price rather than for auction.
- Add in freebies to attract buyers like guitar picks, soft cases, straps, etc.
For keywords, I suggest looking at either the exact same or similar items already listed on eBay that are ranking 1st and 2nd and see what keywords they used. eBay will also prompt you to list the items with the same title as already listed items.
Or you can use this wonderful tool for finding eBay keywords to include in your listing.
As you can see in the screenshot below, our recent listing of the Ibanez AF155 ranks 1st on search (after the sponsored listing)!
Communication and Negotiation With eBay Buyers
There will be times you have serious buyers and those are great.
But let me warn you, there will be a lot that just want to jerk you around with no intention of buying the guitar for what it’s actually worth. Don’t let those get to you and don’t let them waste your time.
That is why I suggest to set your offer minimum on what you truly would consider letting the item go for. (This number isn’t visible to buyers.)
Having said that, you will still probably get messages from buyers wanting to bully you into selling it to them for cheaper with some sob story. Don’t fall for it. It is not what you are here for.
For the serious buyers though, let’s say you’re having trouble selling something that’s been listed for a month or two with no bites. Then someone messages you saying they would love to purchase the guitar–but they want a case or a trap thrown in for free.
Try to work with them to come to an agreement and accommodate their requests if it’s something you won’t regret (and doesn’t hurt your costs too much).
And always try to be as professional and respectable as possible.
How to Improve Your eBay Seller Rating
Your seller rating or “feedback score” tells buyers about your history.
The higher rating you have as a seller, the better. This tells buyers how easy you are to work with.
Think of it like this:
If you see something you want to buy on eBay but then look at the seller profile and they only have 40% positive feedback, you doubt buying that item.
You then see the same item for $5 more and the seller of that item as 100% positive feedback.
Aren’t you more inclined to buy from the seller with a better score and better reviews?
What Determines Your eBay Feedback Score
Your feedback score is determined upon 4 things over the last 12 months:
- Item as described
- Shipping time
- Shipping charges
This isn’t automatically figured by eBay once your item arrives at the buyer’s doorstep. Nope. This comes from the buyer themselves.
Some people don’t bother with giving feedback. You are allowed to nudge them though.
For all of our sales, we like to send a friendly reminder a couple of days after the item arrives to give their feedback. This strategy has paid off:
Best Approaches to eBay Shipping
Alright, on to the good stuff – getting the items to the buyer’s doorstep!
Where to Get Packaging
Most of the time, we reuse whatever packaging the guitars arrived in.
However, if you purchased your item from a thrift store or yard sale, then you won’t have packaging to reuse.
Is your item relatively small and do you have Amazon boxes that you saved to reuse? Then use those! Always reuse as much as you can!
If not, and your item is on the larger side, start with Craigslist for people giving away large boxes or Home Depot’s packing boxes. UPS, FedEx and USPS also sell their own specific sizes of boxes but the larger they are, the more expensive they can become.
I also recently came across this site where boxes and supplies are super cheap and they’re legit.
Don’t Get Screwed On Dimensions
Guitars can sometimes be a nightmare to ship, especially if the size of the guitar case you want to include is just a couple inches taller than the box. Now have weird dimensions that you are going to get charged for at UPS.
Always measure what you are shipping and what you want to pack it in. Then check with whatever carrier you want to ship with for the price of the dimensions.
If the dimensional weight is higher than the actual weight of the package, the carrier will charge you the highest of the two.
Yep, I know what you’re thinking – ouch!
So don’t be surprised last minute that you got the dimensions wrong and now have to pay double. Always plan ahead.
Which Carrier to Use for Shipping
There are usually 3 options of carriers to use for shipping your eBay items:
I know most people hate USPS but the truth is they’re usually the cheapest. One way to save money: PayPal’s print and ship is often about 30% cheaper than shipping directly through USPS.
When using USPS, forget about flat rate boxes. Regional boxes are always cheaper.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Money on eBay
There are tons of ways to start an online business selling products. You can dropship on eBay, flip on eBay, create your own eCommerce store outside of eBay, etc.
There really is no limit to the amount you can achieve with selling online, especially with the amount of different platforms available today.
But I have to say, eBay is our favorite to use because of its ease of use and wide customer base.
Even though we don’t flip on eBay full time, it has become one of the most fun and profitable side hustles we’ve tried.
We make $750-$3,000 a month flipping on eBay. If we had more time to devote to the hustle, I am sure we could make those earnings more consistent.
It’s all about what you’re willing to put into it. You get out what you put in.
Big thanks to Daniella from iliketodabble.com for contributing this post! Be sure to check her out and follow along (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) with her journey to live a more sustainable life while reaching for financial freedom.
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